Author's Notes: this started as a school assignment. But I think it's worth more than being read once, graded, and left to gather metaphorical dust on my hard drive. And so I shall inflict- uh, release it onto the world! Enjoy!

Just in case...

To Mrs. Schwartz, should you find this: this is my account; I didn't lift my creative writing piece from here. :)


The singular flame flickered, wavering back and forth like a gentle serpent. It was captivating in a way I had never before seen, with the warmth of a mother and the fire of a thousand suns, each at perfect equilibrium. Even as I beheld its light, I could feel that warmth and fire on my cheeks and face. How good I had felt at that moment.

Two more flames joined the first. I looked up to discover they were not flames but orbs of burning, belonging to the Man sitting across from me. The Man moved his thumb and the igniter gave a small click, and the flame went out, as if it had never been there. My eyes followed the silvery box all the way back to his pocket. Beneath his thumb, I could see there was a salamander, beautifully etched into the metal. Every detail was rendered, not a single scale malformed. Through a trick in the light, I could almost convince myself I had seen it slither as it disappeared.

The Man's skin was thick and rough, like sandpaper. His fingernails were large and deeply set, but nicely trimmed. I looked up directly into his eyes for the first time; his face was shaven but pockmarked, as if impacted by a million screaming meteorites. His jaw and chin were wide, so wide in fact his face seemed to loom over me, despite being hardly an inch higher than my own. His nose was pinched and his ears so small they could belong to a pixie. His crew-cut hair was as stiff as steel wire. His eyebrows were likewise thick and bushy, and the blue orbs beneath them held fires undiminished by the departure of their companion.

I'm pretty sure he asked me a question then; to this day I cannot remember what was said, nor my answer. Then he patted my head, rubbing my hair back and forth.

"What a good lad. You'll make a fine man someday - someday soon." I heard footsteps, and turned my head to see my father enter the study. "You've got a fine son here, Charles," the Man said, giving my head a final pat. "He'll make a real man someday. A fireman, just like his father."

"His mother and I are very grateful to have such a blessed son," my father said quietly. My father looked at me, and I could not place the look in his eyes. It was one foreign to his being.

"Well, it looks to be bedtime for you, my friend," said the Man, as he rose from the cushioned stool. Obediently, I left the couch and walked to the doorway where my father stood.

"Go up to your bedroom, and get yourself to sleep. Can you do that?" said my father, fixing me with his gaze.

"Yes, father."

"Say goodnight to Fireman Beatty."

"Goodnight, Mr. Beatty."

Goodnight, Guy." came the fireman's easy response.

I left the study then. My father went in, and I heard voices as I climbed the stairs. And I heard muffled voices as I turned the light and pulled over my covers. And I heard those voices still as I lay there in bed. Beatty stayed a long time. It was late when the door shut and the beetle out front roared away. I was almost asleep when I heard the back door swing open on creaky hinges. I crouched on my bed, peering through the little window of my second-floor bedroom. I saw a black figure hunched over a torchlight. Not a mere flame, but a fire, crackling and expelling embers into the cold air above. My father was burning something in our backyard.